Coming of age as a woman in the sixties, no one ever told me about the Leap Year tradition that women could ask men to marry them during a year that included February 29. That means in 1964, my first year at college, I could have proposed to a guy, except there was no one remotely interesting to me as a marriage prospect at age eighteen. By 1968, I was engaged to be married, so too late. But never mind marriage proposals. During my dating years, it was unheard of for a woman to make the first move and ask a man out, let alone propose marriage.
I remember feeling passive and helpless when it came to dating.
Recently, someone told me about a young woman who liked a guy so she called and asked him out on a date. That would never have happened in my era. In high school and college, I remember feeling passive and helpless when it came to dating. I could flirt and hope that might result in a date, or I could stay home and hide, a social pariah. Those were bleak times socially.
The sixties supposedly ushered in the great social and sexual revolution, but as a college student back then, I remember the rules for girls (folks didn’t call us women yet) were not that different from high school. I guess I was a bit too old to have benefitted in this way from the changes brought on by feminism and the social upheaval that occurred after I graduated in 1967. In fact, although I was active in civil rights and anti-Vietnam protests, the men generally called the shots, just as they did with dating.
Here’s how I remember the dating rules during my years at the University of Michigan (1963-1967):
- If you didn’t have a date for Saturday night, you stayed in the dorm or your apartment with other women in the same predicament.
- Flirting and hoping to meet guys at mixers or in classes was permissible.
- If you were asked out at the last minute, say on a Thursday night for Saturday, you turned down the date because it was a breach of dating protocol.
- Asking guys out was never done. Not even to meet for coffee. That wasn’t a thing back then.
- Women did not go out together on weekends. No date meant no movies or concerts or dances.
- If you were living in a dorm or sorority house, you had “hours,” which meant you had a curfew to meet. The punishment for arriving late fell on the woman, who was generally grounded or given an earlier curfew for the next weekend.
My brief fling with sorority living ended when I refused to attend a candle lighting ceremony because I had gone out with my future husband. Those ceremonies were the worst. All of the girls stood in a circle and passed a candle while singing an insipid song about waiting for a guy to choose them. On the second pass of the candle, the girl was who blew it out was pinned, meaning a boy had made a commitment to her by giving her his fraternity pin. On the third pass, blowing out the candle signaled an engagement. I hated those ceremonies. Women were passive recipients of men’s largess. The song lyrics included the words, “… She is loyal to the Gold and Blue (Michigan’s colors), and she will always be loyal to you. He is the greatest guy, and she can tell you why. He chose the best from all the rest…“ Wow, that happened in 1965.
Thank goodness 55 years later, in 2020, Leap Year only suggests an extra day, and a woman can issue an invitation to a man, woman, or other-identified person to go out on what we used to call a date.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.